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Steps To Take If Breaking Into A Car To Save A Pet


Under California Penal Code Section 597.7(b)(1), a person may take reasonable steps that are necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle, if the person holds a reasonable belief that the animal's safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

Although this section covers a person when they take action on a hot summer day to save an animal in distress, there are some steps which should be followed for the protection of all parties involved. These steps will offer legal protection to the person breaking into the vehicle, and accelerate law enforcement's investigation once we arrive on scene.  You need to remember we may receive 911 calls from people who may be seeing you breaking into a vehicle, and reporting a vehicle burglary or vehicle theft "in-progress." You can't fault a person who calls us if they are staying away from you, for their own safety, yet do not know all the facts.

How To Do It... 

 We've combined the legally required steps along with some of our professional expertise, to create the following steps if you must break into a vehicle:

  1. If you, or someone near you, has a phone or tablet, begin recording all your actions up to the point emergency services arrive. 
  2. You must be ​confident the animal's safety is in IMMEDIATE danger.
  3. Check to see if you, or someone near you, can find the owner.
  4. Call 911 and advise the dispatcher what has happened and the fact you are about to break the vehicle's window. The dispatcher may tell you not to break the window.  This is not because we don't want to save the animal, but rather, there most likely is a police officer nearby coming to your location. It's far better to let us incur the liability than you.
  5. While you're waiting for emergency personnel to arrive, see if you, or someone near you, can locate the vehicle's owner.
  6. If the owner can not be located, check the doors and windows to see if any of them are open or unlocked. If there is an emergency unit on its way, DO NOT enter the vehicle. Simply tell the emergency personnel which door or window they can enter.
  7. Have something, such as a leash or belt, which will allow you to control the animal once you've accessed the vehicle.
  8. If the animal's condition warrants immediate extrication from the vehicle, and you can no longer wait for the arrival of an emergency unit, carefully break the window on the opposite side of where the animal is located.
  9. Rescue the animal from vehicle, and STAY on scene, in a safe area.
  10. Turn the animal over to emergency personnel.
Graphic showing rise in temperatures

First Aid For Pets After Removal From A Hot Vehicle 

In the event you remove an animal from a hot vehicle, and you believe the animal is suffering from a heat related illness, do the following:

  • Remove from direct sunlight
  • Place the animal on a cool surface
  • Direct a fan towards the animal
  • Place wet towels on the back and under the armpits of the dog
  • Get the pet to an animal hospital


  • ​Use cold water or ice
  • Over cool the animal
  • Don't force the animal to drink

Local Emergency Pet Hospitals 

​There are several veterinarians and pet hospitals in the local area, however, the closest to Azusa are:

Azusa Animal Hospital
457 E. Arrow Highway, Suite G
Azusa, CA 91702
Phone: (626) 858-0027

Emergency Pet Hospital of Glendora (ONLY OPEN 6 pm to 8 am)
500 S. Glendora Avenue
Glendora, CA 91740
Phone: (626) 594-0356

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